Editor's Note: Matthew Guenette reads this Sunday, August 12 at Myopic Books (1564 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago), 7 pm with Jason Bredle.
That summer’s cramped
humid alphabet, tree-shadowed
street, shadows shading
each day’s motion
syllables slow-finning forward
& back as enormous
slow-finned & flashed
in the current where
the power plant’s outflow
warmed the lake green
that first red morning, the punk
plucking his bike
from a dumpster & smoking
a joint trailing funky
sweet & sour seahorses
of smoke, our sublet’s vague
gas-leak smell, faded orange
plaster music pumped in
from the 70s, jumping spiders
living like monks in the sills
the next door couple’s
moans sapping through
our sleep, the underwater
sound of TV, black & white
canned laughs sinking
through the ceiling, the surprisingly
soothing aluminum blinds
in a breeze, the schizophrenic
xylophone of chimes
& somewhere a drunk singing
Sinatra from his porch—
remember how we slipped
naked down the alley
night’s cool breath on our necks
how careful we were
not to wake, our bed rafting
onto the lake, drifting out
like a new sentence.
Heather Bar Sonnet
The night is an urging of non-Heathers
until in walks Heather
with her fistful of Heathers.
Either we saddle the horse of un-Heather
or we Heather the horse
or we unsaddle the Heathers
through the eye of a needle.
Fortune bumblebees toward Heather
who sashays with her look-alikes.
To Heather or not Heather?
To Heather (she stammered in the drunken beauty queen fashion)
her meditative equipoise
and the queens she hides up her sleeve.
His Mind was a Backseat
With stains and a funny smell
Emotionally disturbed brother and I
at the drub diets
enjoying bottles of the latest biter duds.
We’re looking out over rib dusted
Beyond the stub dried, big Ed ruts
where the special ed dirt dusts up like bed turds.
You know what should go there, says emotionally disturbed brother.
A summer bicep camp. Rows of machines for every move.
Dumbbells, preacher bench, nautilus isometric shit.
All biceps, all the time.
A parking lot full of crotch-rockets and Camaros and Z-28s. With special guests
Carrot Top and Governor Schwarzenegger motivating the skinny-legged campers
to sculpt their biceps until their shirt sleeves strain
and the biceps practically oil themselves.
Later we’re watching big eds rut
a bride stud on TV.
A tubed rids with a birds duet
buried in his bust redid gets dragged
to the tribe duds by his drunk bastard friends
who want nothing to do with this debt rudder.
Emotionally disturbed brother says, will he be okay?
All biceps all the time.
When Lightning Struck the Festival
The Lights Strung in the Trees Popped like Ladyfingers.
He was auditioning for the role of Man Hit By a Bus. He had to wear Coke-bottle glasses
and was asked to walk as if on a raft rocking in the middle of a lake.
Smile, they said. Round your vowels like a Wisconsin housewife.
Except they had no script, so he had to improvise.
He decided to say whatever had happened: “When lightning struck the festival,
the lights strung in the trees popped like ladyfingers.”
The words wrote themselves out in the air before him, finishing themselves off
before he could speak through them fully. Time was moving on
without him. Something electric and heavy.
He nailed it on the second take.
Playing Poker with the Gods
The Gods say raise your hand and repeat after us:
drink this kool aid, wear this fig leaf,
try on these rockets and missiles for size.
Is everything wrapped in a womb of red velvet?
Even the hedgehog? The Must-Be Gods.
The Gods of Bit-by-Bit.
These gods are killing my teeth
like a tray of revolving sweets. The insect’s
mandibles should be reminder enough
not to tip these undertakers on our way out.
Is every god a stranger? Are they just
wanting money as the seasons demand? One god
says you’re a big sissy, another wears a cologne
called Tourniquet. Look: there’s calcium bicarbonate
on your new white shirt. The gods
fat and stupid change their minds like pigeons.
Fortitude: testicular. Coleslaw: stolen.
Here among all creation, I get a splitting headache
because every night I have to come down here
and devour all these ashes.
Please, what am I supposed to do?
He Lived in X
Its oligarchy of mayors.
Its shitty country music.
Its backwards hat wearing riding around with gun racks and rebel flags.
He thought X was trying to erase itself because it preferred parking lots and fast food
20 oz. refill chicken bucket strip-malls plowing relentlessly through.
Like preferring no history at all.
His any given night riverfront casino desperate and despondent drunk wandering.
His grotesquely gurgling carp thrown up on its muddy banks.
He didn’t go to church.
He didn’t think nailing the Ten Commandments to your lawn was a good idea.
He wasn’t into morbid obesity or brain sandwiches or lovers with exes with restraining orders out on bail.
The only time he felt suicidal was in X. He went to the pawnshop to see how much
for a gun.
Then he went to the emergency room.
What’s the problem?
I want to kill myself.
You need to make an appointment for that. The earliest we can see you
is in three weeks.
Nietzsche had a mullet
Finally, The Printer
Finally, the printer decided just to drag, jig-saw, Swiss-cheese, or otherwise mince and shred in its jaws every memo, resume, and refusal-of-credit letter to a stubble-mulch lettuce.
Something had to be done.
Debbie distracted the printer with paper clips and a fresh ream of paper. I dialed the company’s emergency hot line and whispered the code word: hamster.
I’d barely hung up the phone before the SWAT Team was there, rappelling down from the roof in a shadowy flux.
The printer sensed something was up.
Black ink and toner fluid drooled from its cream-colored face. Its digital readout was speaking in tongues. It flashed a seizure of red and green lights.
“Debbie,” I said. “Take my hand.”
This was the go sign. The SWAT Team came swinging crashing through the windows, their laser scopes trained with terrifying precision.
In no time they had the printer blindfolded and unplugged.
The grizzled CO lit up a cigar. He set his jaw and gave a look of deep reproach while in the storeroom two of his boys went to work on the printer old school, one with a pipe, the other with needle-nose pliers.
“We’ve seen this type of printer before,” he said.
© Copyright 2007 Matthew Guenette